The Northern Trails Ski Club, a non-profit organization in operation since 2003, is run by a small army of volunteers. Norman Gladish, Dave Arola and their team carefully groom the trails, whilst a host of others tend to the clubhouse and help with fundraisers throughout the year.
Membership has been as high as 90 individuals and families, but, as the members are able to ski or snowshoe at any time during the week without checking in, it’s hard to tell how many people are actually using the trails.
The ungroomed snowshoeing trailhead is located at the end of Lynx Avenue off Manitou Road, just beyond the OPP station. Volunteer Louie Brislow marks the trails to help people from getting lost; yellow tape leads into the path, and blue tape guides the way out.
“It’s so beautiful out along the trails. I love it," said club president Cindy Fairbrother. “Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are low impact, so it’s an easy, enjoyable way to get some exercise.”
There are 15 kilometres of groomed trails in two different locations, offering three levels of difficulty. The open terrain of the Clubhouse trails, which start at the golf course, are an easygoing 10 kilometres long. The Kiwissa trails, which wind their way around the downhill ski area, are more challenging, but are only five kilometres long, and the snow-covered trees and natural formations offer shelter from the elements. The trails are marked to show their level of difficulty; black is steep, red is fairly even, and green is the easiest trail. The blue trail will not be in use this year, as the ice across the lake is too slushy.
The costs for membership in the club are from $120 for adults, $60 for youth, and $50 for seniors. A family pass can be purchased for $180. Equipment is offered for rent; skis, boots and poles can be borrowed by members for $35 a week or $250 for the season (Family discounts available). Non-members can check out the trails with a weekly ski pass and equipment rental for a fee of $100. The proceeds go to pay for things like rent, equipment, and insurance for the skiers and equipment, and other necessary expenses.
The Northern Trails Cross Country Ski clubhouse is now open from noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. Located at the Manitouwadge rec centre, the clubhouse is a cozy place to rest and warm up by the fireplace, wax your skis and chat with friends after an invigorating workout on the trails.
The club is always on the lookout for more volunteer helpers, so if you’ve got some time on your hands, and want to be part of Manitouwadge’s vibrant outdoor recreation scene, or if you want more information about the club, contact Cindy Fairbrother at (807) 378-0030 or email her at Fairsister76@gmail.com.